Do you remember the Jackson 5? When Michael Jackson was just a little guy and singing with his older brothers? Boy, I do. So I remember those lyrics I used in the title. I know that parents already know this: children develop in 3 phases. Those 3 phases are physically, mentally and emotionally ( we will deal with psychological as being a blend of mental & emotional skills). What most parents and teachers know is that the brain and body have to learn to work together. The challenge is that each of those 3 phases of a child can go through rapid growth and development and usually there is a lag in between all 3.
Our experience has shown us that the development is in this order: 1st mental skills, 2nd physical skills and finally 3rd emotional skills. We are constantly amazed by the sheer intelligence of children. They learn and acquire everything from language and terminology to pure rote memorization rapidly. Just watch a 7 year old Black Belt learn and demonstrate a Kata (Form) of more than 80 moves…..it is impressive!
But their bodies are constantly growing, sometimes explosively! So they can become adept at a new physical skill, grow over a foot in 1 year ( you have seen this, haven’t you!) and then have to relearn that skill. The youngest children we teach are just 4 & 5 years old. Consider that they have only been walking for 3-4 years and are still trying to write and develop other fine motor skills. Although they may know what a “crescent kick” is and what it should look like, they may struggle for weeks or months to accomplish one well. ( Go back and read this article about skill development You Got Skills! )
Emotional development is last. It’s the last to show and the first to go. And I KNOW every parent knows this! We have 4 & 5 year olds who will memorize a Form, walk and talk all the way through it, break boards and practice sparring right along with 10 & 12 year olds. But just let them get over-challenged, tired or hungry (or coming down with a bug) and it’s all waterworks and meltdowns! Even in teenagers and adults the emotions are more vulnerable to changes than their mental or physical skills.
Martial Arts training helps to develop all skill areas. It helps to integrate all the parts and build up “toughness” or “grit” mentally & physically & emotionally. One of my Master Instructors and Mentors, Master Jason Campbell, says make sure your kid gets a Black Belt. It doesn’t matter what style or discipline. Just get a Black Belt. The developmental benefits from such training cannot be found anywhere else. It’s Simple! I didn’t say it was EASY, just that it was simple. It’s A,B,C!